In order to be effective brushing teeth, one first needs to know what it is we are doing when we brush our teeth. What is it that causes cavities that we would like to get off of our teeth? What is a cavity anyway?
The cavity is a hole in your tooth that was created by the acids made by bacteria. Hundreds of kinds of bacteria live in our mouth and about 50 different kinds contribute to cavities. If we brush those bacteria off of our teeth each day they cannot create the cavity. I often ask the kids in my office, if they were a tasty bug hiding in the grass so a bird cannot find them and eat them, what color would they like to be? Green, of course! So, if you are a bacteria thriving on teeth, what color would you be? White, of course! So, when you brush your teeth how do you know if you got them clean? White on white, the bacteria are invisible!!
The simplest way for me to demonstrate bacteria on the teeth is to color them with vegetable dye to make them visible. That is the pink stuff we use in the office at every recall. It is called disclosing solution and is sometimes available in pharmacies. We have it for you to take home as tablets. An alternative is in your kitchen in the food coloring box you have for Easter eggs and other colorful baking needs. Red works very well. Green looks very interesting too.
By painting or licking a couple drops around your teeth, then rinsing and swishing and spitting out, you can color bacteria. Then with a mirror in a well lighted place, take a look. Pick up your toothbrush and see what it takes to get the places clean that you missed the last time you brushed your teeth. You will find the bacteria come off very easily. The reason that people continue to have cavities is not because bacteria are difficult to get off the teeth. It is because most people don't know where their toothbrush has been missing.
There are all kinds of brushing techniques described by dentists, hygienists, and articles in magazines. The bottom line for cleaning the teeth is that you want the tips of the bristles to go into the little nooks and crannies around your teeth and on the chewing surface of your teeth. The way to do that is to make sure that whatever technique you use, they are short jiggling kind of strokes. They can be up and down, left and right, circles, and ovals. It doesn't really matter as long as it is short and jiggly when you're doing it.
When you can see the results of your brushing because of the food color it becomes easy to train yourself to be an excellent brusher. You will discover that it takes far less time to be very effective with your toothbrushing than you ever imagined. Most people discover it takes them less time to do a good job than it used to take them to do an inadequate job that missed many places and resulted in continuing cavity problems.
Once you have gotten the teeth clean you will discover that it takes quite a long time before the bacteria build a film thick enough to see it with the food color again. Use the coloring technique occasionally. Use it after you have brushed so that you are checking the effectiveness of your current brushing. Then brush the remainder off and remember the new jiggles to incorporate into your regular routine. After doing this once a week for a few weeks, you will discover your teeth are getting thoroughly cleaned each time you brush. Then you only need to use the disclosing color on a very seldom basis. You can use the same technique to check when you think your children are going too fast.
Now that you know how to evaluate your own toothbrushing you will see many results. One is that your teeth will have a brighter smile. Two is that stains which used to develop on your teeth from coffee and tea and wine drinking, will develop much more slowly, or not at all. The other thing you will realize is that your toothbrush cannot clean between your teeth. That is why, when you look into your mouth at your own dental work, you see that most of the fillings go down between your teeth. That is where about 80 to 90% of the cavities develop after about age 10. So clearly, you will want to floss as well. You will find a description of flossing in this website too.
Another well-known but rarely realized fact is that it takes 24 hours for the complex group of bacteria to re-form on your teeth after thorough cleaning. When you get good at this, you will start hearing your hygienist say things like; Wow your teeth are really clean. I don't think you need to be coming in here for a cleaning as often as you are. Isn't that nice too? Your wallet will especially appreciate that one. I know lots of people who see their dentist once a year for minor routine cleaning.